Monthly Archives: May 2015

Weekend update – 5/30/2015 (click to embiggen) (click to embiggen)
I wrote (and linked to others who wrote) about why we shouldn’t give in to the schadenfreude urge in relation to the child sex abuse scandal swamping the cultish Duggar family of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting fame, and Brooke Arnold makes a powerful argument coinciding with that: I could’ve been a Duggar wife: I grew up in the same church, and the abuse scandal doesn’t shock me. The children of the cultish perversion of Christianity the Duggars practice, particularly the girl children, are raised in an environment guaranteed to create these tragedies. And should we be surprised that the man credited with founding this movement is guilty of both a sexual harassment and sexual assault?

And now there’s the indictment of former Republican speaker of the house, Dennis Hastert for paying out millions of dollars in hush money to a man who Hastert had some sort of sexual relationship (sexual misconduct) with back when Hastert was a high school wrestling coach? As I asked earlier, and the author of that story asks now, “When do we get to acknowledge that sexual hypocrisy is in fact a constant theme of conservative politics — that every single time a Republican or ‘family values’ representative speaks to the bigoted mythology of homophobia or transphobia, they are closeting skeletons like a Duggar?” (In case we’ve forgotten how often this happens, Queerty has rounded up a subset of 16 Antigay Leaders Exposed as Gay or Bi.)

The levels of hypocrisy are truly staggering: Are You Gay? Burn In Hell! Molest A Child? You’re Forgiven! And Dennis Hastert’s secret gay ‘misconduct’ is even worse given his terrible voting record on gay rights. And let’s not forget that when Hastert was Speaker he tried to cover up the fact that Congressman Mark Foley had had sexual interactions with male members of the Congressional page program (high school age students).

Bisexual Flag
Bisexual Flag
On the other hand, June is almost here, and the President has issued a proclamation for Pride Month. People are reacting as if it isn’t a big deal, but as Gabe Ortiz (an immigration rights and gay rights activist) pointed out: George W. Bush refused to issue any such proclamations for 8 years even though they had been issued annually almost pro forma for many years before.

Polyamory Symbol
Polyamory Symbol
A few points stick out for me: “For countless young people, it is not enough to simply say it gets better; we must take action too.” and “All people deserve to live with dignity and respect, free from fear and violence, and protected against discrimination, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, we celebrate the proud legacy LGBT individuals have woven into the fabric of our Nation, we honor those who have fought to perfect our Union, and we continue our work to build a society where every child grows up knowing that their country supports them, is proud of them, and has a place for them exactly as they are.” Obama reflects on progress in Pride proclamation

Genderqueer flag
Genderqueer flag
Although some people think the acronym is already long, I wish the President had used the LGBTQ version, because I like to think that the Q (for queer) includes our polyamorous, agender, genderfluid, asexual, genderqueer, pansexual, genderqueer, and allied siblings. Because we’re all part of that crazy, happy, wonderfully fabulous tribe!

Ludovic Bertron from New York City, USA (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)
Ludovic Bertron from New York City, USA (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)
The world would have a lot fewer tragedies like Hastert’s inappropriate touching problem, Foley’s congressional page scandal, and the Duggar child molestation disaster if society as a whole accepted and affirmed all queer people.

Friday Links (baby elephant edition)

Mike Luckovich (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
by Mike Luckovich (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, click to embiggen)
It’s Friday! The fifth Friday in May. Despite a number of misadventures including some really odd car issues, we have made it to our hotel room at Everfree NW and are having a lot of pony-related fun. Depending on how healed my ankle is from this week’s misadventure. I may do nothing more than hobble from our room to the bar.

Anyway, here is a collection of some of the things that I ran across over the course of the week which struck me as worthy of being shared. Sorted into categories with headings so you can skip more easily:

Link of the Week

It’s time we have a holiday to honor those who try to stop wars, too.


Vesta has no moons – is it unlucky or did it eat them?

Double blow to skull is earliest evidence of murder, a 430,000-year-old whodunit.

Sudden onset of ice loss in Antarctica so large it affects Earth’s gravity field.

Explaining a Cornerstone of Game Theory: John Nash’s Equilibrium.

Political/culture war news:

The Perfect Explanation of Privilege – In One Powerful Punchline.

Segregationists never went away: We just call them “small-government conservatives” now.


Thanks To Pedophile Cop Pal, Sister-Touching Josh Duggar Will Never Be Prosecuted. Thanks Cop Pal!

Vatican Calls Ireland Same-Sex Marriage Vote a ‘Defeat for Humanity’. But decades of protecting, covering for, and enabling pedophile priests was a victory?

Rubio: If We Don’t Stop Gay Rights, Soon The Teachings Of The Catholic Church Will Be ‘Hate Speech’.


Josh Duggar Friend Mike Huckabee to Run on Bold Pro-Child Molester Platform.

The Catholic Church’s American downfall: Why its demographic crisis is great news for the country.

7 Things People Who Say They’re ‘Fiscally Conservative But Socially Liberal’ Don’t Understand: Social and economic issues are deeply intertwined.

Josh Duggar didn’t make a “mistake” — he’s going to get away with sexual assault.

Twitter is under no obligation to host Chuck Johnson’s witch hunts.

What Clintons Do Is ‘Scandalous,’ What Republicans Do Is… Ignored.

Lawmakers overestimate how conservative their districts are—by a lot.

The Myth of the Hero Cop: Police officers earn more than you think for a job that’s less dangerous than you imagine.

News for queers and our allies:

WATCH: Ellen Meets Trans Hunk Aydian Dowling.

How Ireland’s gay marriage vote exposes the catch-22 of modern Christianity.


Why Thousands Of Catholics Voted For Marriage Equality In Ireland.

Hawaii Supreme Court dismisses challenge to marriage equality law.

Let’s Take Queer YA Out of the Closet.

Why Can’t We Talk About Homophobia in the Black Community?

Lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans differ from general public in their religious affiliations.

WATCH: Alabama Jails, Fines Minister After Performing Lesbian Wedding. Who is defending religious liberty, again?

Equality and Representation of LGBTQ People in Fantasy.

“I am the mother of a gay son and I’ve taken enough from you good people.”

Video game shop responds perfectly to vandals who scrawled ‘gay’ on their window.

The obligatory Sad Puppies/Hugo Awards update:

Science Fiction’s White Male Problem. What I like most about this one is the Samuel R. Delaney anecdote. “A genre that includes the socialist H.G. Wells, the libertarian Heinlein, the Catholic conservative Gene Wolfe, the anarchist Le Guin, the feminist Margaret Atwood and the Marxist China Mieville can hardly be thought of as essentially nonpolitical entertainment.”

The Way the Future Never Was.

And the follow-up: The Way the Future Never Was: A Visual Appendix.

if you haven’t seen this yet (we have always been at war with eurasia).

And other news:

Anne Meara, one half of ‘Stiller & Meara’ and mother of Ben Stiller, dies.

Tanith Lee, 1947-2015.

Happy News!

Five hundred new fairytales discovered in Germany.

Things I wrote:

Tom Puppy and the Visitor from Planet Clueless.

A Boy and His Telepathic Cat: more of why I love sf/f.


Bohemian Rhapsody Played by 100+ year old fairground organ:

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Making History – GAZE celebrates marriage equality vote in Ireland:

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Betty Explains Religious Freedom:

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Pretty Boys – A Public Service Announcement:

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Baby elephant makes public debut in Syracuse:

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Matt Gold – “Low” Official Music Video:

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A Boy and His Telepathic Cat: more of why I love sf/f

Cover of Daybreak 2250 A.D. (original title: Star Man's Son) by Andre Norton. (Click to embiggen)
Cover of Daybreak 2250 A.D. (original title: Star Man’s Son) by Andre Norton. (Click to embiggen)
I don’t remember which Andre Norton book was the first that I read. I do know that sometimes when we moved to a new town where the library didn’t have a clearly labeled science fiction/fantasy section, I would head to the card catalog and look up Norton to find out where to start. I do remember one of her books that I read over and over: Daybreak 2250 A.D..

I believe that I first read it in fourth grade. It was a hardback copy from the school library with the original title: Star Man’s Son. I found the copy with the blue and white cover and the alternate title in a used bookstore sometime in middle school. The novel is set in the mid-23rd Century, two hundred years after a nuclear disaster has destroyed civilization. The protagonist, Fors, is the son of a Star Man, who have been scouring the earth for old technological treasures, books, and the like that they are preserving as part of a plan to eventually rebuild a civilization. Fors is a mutant with silver hair and mild psychic powers who is ostracized by the other Star Men after his father dies. He has a series of adventures with his unnaturally intelligent cat, Lyra, eventually proving himself worth of carrying the distinctive star badge of his father’s people.

Th novel was originally written in 1952, and was intended for the young adult market, so the plot and setting don’t seem terribly original now. But she described Fors’s and Lyra’s world vividly enough to seize my imagination. Having a hero be a young person who is rejected by his own people for being a freak is something that most kids could related to, let alone a closeted gay nerd who loved science growing up with creationist fundamentalists. And what kid wouldn’t want to go on fantastic adventures with a kickass telepathic cat as a companion?

Despite the fact that I read it so many times, the specifics of the plot never stay with me. I remember the setting, the hero, and the cat. There were various encounters with less civilized tribal cultures, but I don’t remember any specifics. I don’t even remember what discovery he made at the end to earn his place with the Star Men.

But I loved that book!

Double-book of The Beast Master and Star Hunter (Click to embiggen)
Double-book of The Beast Master and Star Hunter (Click to embiggen)
Then there were the pair of Norton books that were released as a double-book. These were an interesting idea: publish two different books back-to-back (one was literally upside-down compared to the other) and sell for the usual paperback price. This was one of the few I ever found where both books were by the same author. Others usually had one author I had heard of on one side, and a complete unknown on the other. This is not a scan of my copy. When I found mine for sale extra cheap at a used book store, it was missing the Beast Master cover completely, and had maybe half of the other one still intact. Someone had attempted a repair with book tape and some cardstock. I had never known what the original Beast Master cover looked like until the age of the internet.

It is important to note that this book pre-dated the movie of similar name by many years. And the movie bears almost no connection to the plot of the book. I understand that Ms. Norton received a licensing fee for the movie, but I don’t know whether it was meant to be an adaptation. Anyway, Norton’s novel is about a man of Navajo descent named Hosteen Storm who has a telepathic link to certain animals. Storm and his companions end up on a colony world after leaving the military. Star Hunter, on the hand, is about a young guy who discovers he has another person’s memories and a bunch of people are out to get him.

Just skimming the titles in the very long bibliography of Norton’s work on Wikipedia brings a fond smile to my face. Whether she was writing science fiction or fantasy (or the occasional historical novel), she created scores of imaginary worlds that I wanted to run away to, and gave me characters I wanted to be like. A recurring theme was the outsider who finds or makes their own niche in the world. Her stories made me believe that it didn’t matter if people called me a freak, or said I was irrelevant or unsuitable because of some arbitrary standard—what mattered was what I did with the hand fate dealt me.

That was an inclusive message I desperately needed to hear growing up. Fortunately, Andre Norton was there to show me the way.

Tom Puppy and the Visitor from Planet Clueless

CELWROWUEAIJmc_A Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy supporter posted an op-ed on the men’s rights site Return of the Kings (he links to and heavily paraphrases one of the Sad Puppy podcasts), “How Female-Dominated Publishing Houses Are Censoring Male Authors” that is a great example of several of the issues that I believe underpin the Sad Puppy position. Never mind that the statistics show that men make up more than 65% of the annual publishing lists of most of the publishing houses, and male-authored books comprise more the 80% of books reviewed in the major publications, this guy is here to tell us that men are being censored!

His proof is an anecdote told to him by a veteran who had written a book about his experiences while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who claimed to have gotten his book through several phases of the publishing process, only to be rejected at the last step because a senior editor who happened to be a woman was offended by one line in the book and said, “he’s an asshole, we don’t want to work with him.” I have a hard time swallowing the story as stated. But even if we take it at face value, the story boils down to an editor deciding that someone who is difficult to work with wasn’t worth the time, effort, and stress required to work with them.

He’s a first-time author, never been published before, has no name recognition, no proven track record. I don’t believe for a moment that it was a single line in the book that set anything off. I suspect that the author had behaved abominably to several people in the process up to that point and the book itself was of only middling quality. An important part of an editor’s job is to recognize which stories their readers will enjoy reading. Another important job is to weigh the costs and benefits of working with a specific story and author. If a particular book does not look like a blockbuster that will sell zillions of copies, it isn’t worth the time and effort to put up with a lot of assholery through the process of re-writes, galley proofs, et cetera.

That isn’t anti-male prejudice, that’s good business practice.

The fact that this anecdote is swallowed without examination—without considering the possibility that one could try to figure out what behaviors led to the characterization of asshole and try changing those behaviors—shows just how big the privilege blinders are on these guys. Imagine! If you’re nice to people they’re willing to help you. If you aren’t, they have no motivation to stick their necks out for you. And deciding to expend your employer’s money and the time of yourself and other employees on turning a manuscript into a published book and then distributing it is sticking your neck out.

This is one of the fundamental blind spots of the various puppies: they are convinced that the only reason their stories aren’t bestsellers and award winners and the only reason that they aren’t met at every convention by crowds of screaming fans must be the result of a conspiracy. It isn’t possible that their writing is mediocre. It isn’t possible that their subject matter isn’t of interest to anyone but angry misogynist racist homophobic men such as themselves. It isn’t possible that their predilection for making outrageous statements comparing gay people to termites in need of extermination might make anyone who knows or loves a gay person less than thrilled to hear more of what they have to say. It isn’t possible that characterizing some woman’s clothing as an all-day slut walk might be off-putting to anyone who is or loves a woman. It isn’t possible that characterizing people of color as half-savages might make people of any ethnicity less than enthusiastic about cheering everything you say.

Instead of exercising our own judgement about what works to read and who to be fans of, apparently we should all feel grateful that they would deign to allow us to bask in the glow of their wit and wisdom.

Memorial, part 2

Reblogging my own post from last year, because Memorial day requires remembering Grandma…

Font Folly

copyright 2014 Gene Breshears Flowers for Grandma’s grave. Grandma always called it by the older name, Decoration Day. As I’ve written before, the original holiday was celebrated in many states as a day to gather at the grave sites of your parents, grandparents, et cetera, to honor the memory of their lives. It was often a time of picnics and family reunions. At least as much a celebration of their lives as a time of mourning. The connection to military deaths didn’t happen until 1866, and particularly in the south, was often seen as a pro-Union, pro-war, anti-southern celebration.

I didn’t understand most of those nuances when I was a kid. The modern version of the holiday, celebrated on the last Monday in May, didn’t even exist until I was a fifth-grader, when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act went into effect.

Grandma observed it faithfully. Every year, as May rolled around, she would…

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Weekend Update: 5/23/2015

These tweets by Gabe Ortiz express my sentiments nicely. (Click to embiggen)
These tweets by Gabe Ortiz express my sentiments nicely.
Yes, I posted at least two links yesterday to stories about Josh Duggar, one of the sons of the ultra-rightwing family that are the “stars” of TLC’s 19 and Counting and his admission to the charges of molesting younger children when he was a teenager. Please note that most of my ire is at his parents, who covered it up for at least a year. And I say at least because they eventually asked a friend who was a state trooper to talk to Josh about his problem, and said friend didn’t do anything official with the news. The fact that the same trooper is now currently serving prison time for child molesting himself is a weird twist I may come back to.

The closest they came to not covering it up is three years later, when Josh was still a teen, and allegations from the victim that wasn’t one of his sisters came to light. By then, the statute of limitations had run out, and while authorities looked into the matter, there was nothing they could do. At that time, the family claimed that they had earlier sent Josh off to some kind of rehab. More recently, they have admitted that all they did was send him to live with a family friend for three months. There was no counseling or therapy involved. So, the parents and at least one state patrol officer knew about the problem, but didn’t report it. When other people learned about the problem, the parents lied about what steps they had taken to handle it.

Then there is the fact that grown-up Josh has been working for the Family Research Council where his official duties boiled down to saying awful, untrue things about gay and trans people, campaigning to take away our civil rights, and raising money to continue to keep us as second class citizens. So some people are experiencing a little bit of schadenfreude: Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged, Josh Duggar!

Alvin McEwen over at Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters cautions us not to rejoice about this comeuppance, and he’s right to do so. Just as Mark Joseph Stern is right when he says, Of Course We Should Condemn Josh Duggar. We Should Also Pity Him.

I want to point out that I’m not rejoicing.

What I am doing is saying “I told you so.” Not that I predicted that Josh was a serial child molester, but I have said many times that the kind of counter-factual, sex-negative fanaticism practiced at least a little bit by most conservative “christians” (and is practiced in spades by the Duggar Cult) makes this sort of thing inevitable. The human sex drive is not an insignificant force, and you can’t dismiss it. If you refuse to teach children how to handle it when their hormones start flowing, foster an atmosphere where they are afraid to ask questions about it when they start feeling it, and otherwise teach them falsehoods about how it all works you wind up creating situations like that of Josh and his victims.

In other words, it isn’t ironic that this has happened, it is inevitable.

Having been raised in an evangelical fundamentalist church myself, I understand how powerful redemptive narratives are in that subculture. That’s why you get people in that community excusing it in ways that sound sociopathic to the rest of us: ‘Boys are curious’: Meet the Duggar defenders using religion to excuse fondling your sleeping sisters.

And then there is the disturbing lack of any mention about the harm to the victims. Josh was sent off to live with a family friend (did I mention that this family friend, like the state trooper, is also now in prison for molesting minors?), was covered up for, and prayed for. But were his victims offered counseling? Or were they told to praise the lord that it wasn’t worse? The Problem With the Duggar Sexual Assault Cover-Up Nobody’s Talking About.

And in case you don’t know why some people are feeling at least a bit amused by this comeuppance: Here are 6 of the most horrifying examples of the Duggars’ homophobia.


Panti Bliss celebrates with supporters of same-sex marriage at Dublin Castle. (Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images)
Panti Bliss celebrates with supporters of same-sex marriage at Dublin Castle.
(Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images)
But that’s enough about sad, depressing news about hateful people. Can we talk about love? Can we talk about the nation of Ireland, which has not only approved Marriage Equality in a popular vote, but a approved it by more than 60% saying “Yes” to equality? Ireland Votes To Legalize Gay Marriage, Leaders On Both Sides Of Referendum Say. And Ireland Votes Overwhelmingly To Approve Same-Sex Marriage.

I can’t stop tearing up.

Friday Links (baby leopard edition!)

Quadruplet clouded leopard cubs were born at Point Defiance zoo and aquarium in Tacoma, Washington (Photograph: Point Defiance Zoo/Facebook)
Quadruplet clouded leopard cubs were born at Point Defiance zoo and aquarium in Tacoma, Washington
(Photograph: Point Defiance Zoo/Facebook)
It’s Friday! The fourth Friday in May. We have family flying in from out of town, and they want to do a whirlwind tourist-y tour of Seattle, so I’m going probably going to be off the grid until sometime next week.

Anyway, here is a collection of some of the things that I ran across over the course of the week which struck me as worthy of being shared. Sorted into categories with headings so you can skip more easily:

Link of the Week

Ian McEwan to Grads: Defend Free Speech. It’s long, but really worth the read. And it is not entirely about what you think it’s about.


Girls With Toys: This is what real scientists look like..

New Mind-Altering Substance Identified. It’s Called Writing.

The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous. “Its faith-based 12-step program dominates treatment in the United States. But researchers have debunked central tenets of AA doctrine and found dozens of other treatments more effective.” (Thanks to geojlc for the link!)

Science women celebrate ‘toys’ after radio show comment.

The closest supernova candidate?

Why is the Universe flat and not spherical? (Advanced).


Introducing Washington’s first dinosaur. Woo hoo!

And for more information: The First Dinosaur from Washington State and a Review of Pacific Coast Dinosaurs from North America.

What effect did compression waves have immediately following the Big Bang? (Intermediate).

The Slow-Motion Symbiotic Train Wreck of the 13-Year Cicada.

New Math Model Shows How Neural Networks Create Memories.

Quantum-mechanical monopoles discovered.

Astronomers baffled by discovery of rare quasar quartet.

Oil CEO Wanted University Quake Scientists Dismissed: Dean’s E-Mail.

Political/culture war news:

Let’s stop saying bad police officers are rare. Fact is they’re plentiful from coast to coast.

BOMBSHELL DUGGAR POLICE REPORT: JIM BOB DUGGAR DIDN’T REPORT SON JOSH’S ALLEGED SEX OFFENSES FOR MORE THAN A YEAR. Shorter version of the same headline: Awful hateful bigot does awful things, duh.

Gross Josh Duggar Admits To Molesting His Own Sisters, Resigns From Family Research Council. The Wonkette actually has screen captures of a lot of the redacted police documents and way more details than I found anywhere else.

Largest Paper in New Jersey Calls Chris Christie Out for Losing Touch with Reality.

Bush Administration Gave ‘False Presentation’ Of The True Intelligence, Briefer Charges. File this under, “We told you so years ago”

White America’s Waco insanity: The shocking realities it ignores about racism & violence.

George W. Bush’s CIA briefer admits Iraq WMD “intelligence” was a lie.

The Christian right is losing women: Why more and more are embracing non-belief.

President Obama And Bill Clinton Put Republicans To Shame With Twitter Takeover.

This Week in Sexism

On the Rape of Sansa Stark and Quitting Game of Thrones.

Maggie Gyllenhaal: At 37 I was ‘too old’ for role opposite 55-year-old man.

What Hollywood’s Acceptance Of Sexism Looks Like In Practice.

I had a culture column at WIRED. And then I didn’t. Here’s what happened.

News for queers and our allies:

Here’s the latest conservative outlet equating gay rights with slavery; yes, slavery, and yes, literally.

Okay, let’s talk about ‘silencing’.

A gay-marriage opponent changes his mind.

Boy Scouts Head Robert Gates: Blanket Ban On Gay Leaders “Cannot Be Sustained”. The former defense secretary, now president of the Boy Scouts, called upon the organization to make a change “sooner rather than later.”

FRC prays against Dan Savage ‘spewing upon our nation’; I’ll let Dan make that joke himself.

EXCLUSIVE: Grindr Screenshots Reveal Antigay Pastor Is A Top Who Likes To Cuddle.

And it gets worse: Anti-Gay Pastor Caught On Grindr Told Gay Teen He Was Going To Hell, Should Commit Suicide, Says Mom. (Seriously, how many times does this have to happen before everyone in the world realizes that almost every virulently anti-gay person is a deeply closet self-hating homosexual themselves?)

Gay rights supporters score two victories in conservative Arkansas.

France’s main Protestant church votes to allow vicars to choose whether to bless same-sex marriages.

Child abuser in Argentina has sentence reduced as judges rule six-year-old victim ‘was gay’ and had been traumatised through earlier abuse.

Backlash, bullies and victory blindness.

Gay fairy tales in Orange County.


Judith Marcin: Guest Post on Crafting Queer Characters.

‘Baking pretty cakes for a living is pretty gay actually’, declares Judge. I don’t completely agree with this, but I don’t completely disagree, either…


US Christians ‘bankrolling’ No campaign in Ireland’s gay marriage referendum.

not all gay men want to be ordinary.

The obligatory Sad Puppies/Hugo Awards update:


Situation Normal: All Fisked Up.

Unassigned Readings — As for gaming the Hugo awards, it is surprisingly easy….

Puppies wee on your shoulders and tell you it’s rain.

Hugo Awards: Short Fiction. “Oh, Puppies, just because you agree with the message, it does not make the work any less message fiction.”

And other news:

B.B. King: A Tribute to Blues Brotherhood.

William Zinsser, Author of ‘On Writing Well,’ Dies at 92.

A writer, a hermit, and Oreo cookies: The strange and sad tale of Cole Waddell’s first magazine story.

Pianist James Rhodes wins right to publish autobiography telling of abuse.

Simon Pegg: Big Mouth Strikes Again. “…maybe I was being a little bit trollish, I can be a bit of a Contrary Mary in interviews sometimes…”

A Liberator, But Never Free.

Farewell, Dave!

Letterman Leaves Late-Night TV With A Near-Perfect Final Show.

Regis Philbin: I hope David Letterman comes back.

Top moments from David Letterman finale.

Happy News!

Hey Other Comic Book Shows, The Flash Finale Just Kicked Your Ass. It really did!

Kate Brown signs bill banning ‘conversion therapy’ for LGBT youth. (Yes, I decided to put this here, rather than up with the other queer-related news, because it really is happy news for everyone)

Things I wrote:

Hugo Ballot Reviews: Short Stories.

And Pot shots from the troll gallery.

And for Throwback Thursday: Time Travellers Strictly Cash: more of why I love sf/f.


Study: Every Republican Obamacare Prediction Was Wrong:

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Taylor Swift – Bad Blood ft. Kendrick Lamar:

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Four rare clouded leopard cubs born at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (music, no narration):

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Endangered Clouded Leopard Gives Birth To Four Adorable Cubs (with narration):

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The final Top Ten, Top Ten Things Celebrities Have Always Wanted to Say to David Letterman:

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Time Travellers Strictly Cash: more of why I love sf/f

The cover of my very own copy of Callahan's Crosstime Saloon. (Click to embiggen)
The cover of my very own copy of Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon. (Click to embiggen)
When I was in middle school, I pleaded so much for a subscription to the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction that one of my grandparents purchased a subscription to Galaxy Science Fiction. I suspect that they slipped into my room one day and grabbed a copy of whichever magazine I had laying around—at the time my only source of the magazine was a rack in the local drugstore, and some months they got Galaxy, some months SF & F, and other months Analog.

It was in the pages of Galaxy that I first “met” Spider Robinson, who wrote their book review column at the time. The books he reviewed were books that either had just come out in hardback or were going to be coming out soon, so they were never books I would be seeing in a while. If a book wasn’t purchased by the local public library, my only option back then was to happen upon a paperback book when the family took a trip to the larger town (across the state line) where they actually had bookstores!

Even though I often didn’t see the books he reviewed until years later, his book reviews gave me a sense of belonging to the sci fi tribe. And they were just fun to read!

1428973Robinson wrote his own science fiction, too. I believe I read a few of the Callahan’s short stories out of order as they appeared in the magazines. It wasn’t until I was in college when I found a copy of Time Traveler’s Strictly Cash in a used bookstore that I read a bunch of them in order. I immediately became an even bigger Spider Robinson fan.

It’s hard to describe the Callahan’s stories. Most of them are set in a bar that somehow manages to attract aliens, time travelers, and various mythical creatures each lost in different ways. They were sort of like Twilight Zone episodes… except (almost) always uplifting. Originally, the Callahan stories were semi-standalone stories, most of which were published in the magazine Analog Science Fiction. The stories often illustrated the Law of Conservation of Pain and Joy (also known as Callahan’s Law): “Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased—thus do we refute entropy.” Robinson wrote the Callahan’s stories as ideas occurred to him, so he didn’t have a grand plan for continuity. So in the later books as he transitioned from short stories to novels things occasionally went off the rails. But even then, the stories had more than enough heart to patch over the plot holes.

He’s also written novels outside of the Callahan’s universe. My particular favorites are Mindkiller and Telempath, though he is probably more famous for the Stardancer series written in collaboration with his wife, Jeanne Robinson. He’s won three Hugo Awards, a Nebula, the John W. Campbell Award, and the Robert A. Heinlein Award for Lifetime Achievement. So I’m not the only one who likes his work.

I read pretty much every single thing he wrote from 1970s, through the 80s, and a bit into the 90s. He kept writing and still is writing. His most recent novel was published in 2008; he’s been reporting off and on about progress on his next novel on his web site, but he’s also been dealing with serious health issues (both his own and in the family), which has slowed him down.

As I said, I kept reading everything he wrote into the 90s. Around 1993 or ’94 I found myself drifting away from Robinson. Some of it was just issues in my life. I finished coming out of the closet, I got divorced, and a lot of family upheaval happened. This is also the time period when, in my opinion, the Callahan stories started going off the rails. I had also come to the conclusion that I just didn’t agree with the philosophy that seemed to underpin every story he wrote: if only people could communicate more clearly, all conflict would cease. So I stopped reading his new material. I would still pull out my old favorites from time to time to re-read.

In 2000, I read a book review by someone else (unfortunately I don’t remember who) of a new Callahan novel, Callahan’s Key. The reviewer mentioned a similar dissatisfaction that had caused him to stop enjoying Robinson’s writing around the same time I had quit. And the review said that this novel captured at least some of the old magic. The reviewer said the new novel was a joy to read.

So I picked it up. And I read it, and it did have a lot of the fun of the earliest stories. It was not, in any way, a rehashing of them, though most of the characters make an appearance (and team up to save the world, literally). It reminded me of why I had loved his writing to begin with.

I think what appeals to me most about Spider is his unabashed enthusiasm for the idea of science fiction itself. That came through in his book reviews, of course, but also in other essays, introductory material he wrote for the short story collections, but also in the stories themselves. I still remember one comment about Dune Messiah, the first sequel to Frank Herbert’s Dune: it had plot holes you could drive a truck through, but you didn’t care, because the rolling grandeur of Herbert’s vision swept you along.

And he was right.

Robinson’s work epitomizes the giddy hope for a better tomorrow that is at the heart of some of the best science fiction. That exuberant expectation of better things to come is what first drew me to the genre. I’m grateful to have had Spider has a guide and companion in my own search of that wonderful tomorrow.

Pot shots from the troll gallery

Copyright Whitney Phillips.
Quote from Whitney Phillips’ excellent essay, “Don’t Feed the Trolls? It’s Not That Simple.”
I was in High School the first time that something I wrote prompted threats of bodily harm. I was a regular contributor to the editorial page of the student newspaper and wrote on a variety of topics—usually political—but the one that pushed my fellow students over the edge was a critique of stagecraft of the music department’s regular concerts. And I was critiquing it as an insider. I played bassoon in the orchestra and symphonic band (and occasionally other instruments as needed), trombone in the jazz band, and sang baritone in the men’s a cappella group (marching band and the pep band never participated in the formal concerts, but I was in those groups, too).

I was tired of playing concerts to a nearly empty theatre. I had recently seen the fall concert of the music department of the other high school across town, and their auditorium was not only packed, they actually charged an admission fee! And their shows were fun.

Anyway, my opinion column did not go over well with some of my fellow music students. But at least none of them felt the need to be anonymous with the threats of maiming and murder.

The first anonymous threats happened when I wrote about abortion and sex education—in the same high school newspaper in the late 70s. And again at community college (and later at university).

But the most vicious, virulent, and disturbing threats came when I started reviewing exhibits in the small free art gallery at the community college. Express an opinion about art, and people completely lose all sense of proportion. Remember that the next time someone tells you that art (or music, or literature, or movies, television, et cetera) doesn’t matter.So, by the time I was active on QueerNet and such in the early 90s, getting homophobic death threats and the like on the internet seemed like old hat.

Anyway, since the whole Sad Puppies thing has happened, I’ve been getting a few more comments here than usual. Okay, sometimes more than a few. Though it isn’t a deluge. Besides having comments set to moderate (a comment doesn’t appear until approved, unless I’ve added the commenter to the whitelist), anonymous commenting is disabled. And the comment system records IP addresses (and alerts you that it will). So the number is high for my blog (since my average is less than one comment per post), but low by typical internet forum standards.

Although many of the comments have been angry, so far none have risen to a vitriolic level. Not being able to post wholly anonymously contributes to that (just the fact that one has to type into multiple fields is probably too much of a hurdle for many troll), I’m sure. I suspect that because there is simply so much being written about this particular topic, and my little blog isn’t exactly drowning in traffic, that there are too many other places for the trolls to go.

Anyone who has ever met me and talked with me for more than a millisecond knows that I do not shy away from debate. And I don’t believe that simply ignoring all trolls is an effective way to deal with the problem of vicious harassment. I’m not ignoring them. I’ve read the comments, and made a determination based on the contents of the comment of whether the person is here to discuss the issue or just wants to yell. I see no reason to approve the latter type of comments and subject any of my readers to an angry tirade that adds nothing to the discussion. I certainly don’t have the time to try to reason with someone who seems bent on nothing more than trying to shout down and insult dissenters.

Make an actual logical or reasonable argument. Indicate that you understand there is more than one side to the issue. Then we can talk.

Hugo Ballot Reviews: Short Stories

1946 Retro Hugo Award Trophy (which were awarded in 1996).
1946 Retro Hugo Award Trophy (which were awarded in 1996). Designed by: Barry Workman, Mike Donahue and Shawn Crosby.
Voting is open for the Hugo Awards, and I’ve been trying to read as many of the nominated works as I can before I cast my ballot. Because of a bloc-voting scheme orchestrated by the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies (and don’t get me started on the claims that they weren’t working together), some have argued that those of us opposed to the idea of bloc-voting should simply vote No Award above all the entries from Puppy slates. While I have some sympathy for the argument, I would feel guilty putting anything below No Award merely because it was recommended (and in some cases was written) by notorious bigots.

The awards are supposed to be about the artistic merits of the nominated pieces, right?

The WorldCon committee hosting each year’s awards traditionally assembles packets of either electronic copies of the nominated works, or excerpts (whichever the publisher will allow) to send to all voters. The Hugo Packets have not been sent out yet (but may show up any moment) so I’ve been locating the short stories that are available on-line to read (Much thanks to the Adventures in Reading blog for gathering all the links in one place; I wish I’d found this list much earlier). Other folks have been posting reviews as they read the stories.

So in this post, I write a short review of each of the short stories available on-line… Continue reading Hugo Ballot Reviews: Short Stories